The sun: Earth’s omnipresent astral companion, the warming light to nourish all life on this beautiful blue globe that we call home. Whole religions were dedicated to her glowing golden luster, and she graces countless invaluable pieces of art with her luminous presence, either through inspiration or direct depiction. And now, German post-(black) metallers Heretoir join the ranks of those artists paying homage to the life-giving star. The Circle is their second full-length release and is meant to be a musical testimony to guitarist/vocalist and main songwriter David ‘Eklatanz’ Conrad’s special connection to, you guessed it, the very celestial body we orbit.
Ashes To Ashes, Golden Dust In My Hand
“Inhale”, the third track on The Circle, opens with a dream pop/shoegaze ambiance over mid-paced black metal drumming. Eklatanz’s somewhat raspy clean vocals mingle with his histrionic, shrieking screams. The atmosphere is exuberant and beautiful, especially in the song’s Shelter-esque clean section, but also in its more intense metal moments.
The subsequent “Golden Dust” dials this sentiment up to eleven. Tremolo-picked motifs and warm bass underlie the emotional vocal delivery, forcing the listener to close their eyes in order to soak up every last detail. ‘Raindrops fall hard in my hand/ It’s filled with golden dust’, sings Eklatanz in the chorus, painting a serene, intimate scenery through the lyrics. When he harmonizes with himself later on during a repetition of this section, it enhances its effect immensely. Much like these two songs, the whole album occupies itself with the creation of lush melodies and rich atmospheres rather than the intense, forceful catharsis most metal fans often crave. Instead, the listener is gently immersed in the music’s exalted soundscapes to alleviate their daily burden instead of brutally ostracizing those negative emotions.
Out Of The Dark, Into The Light
Fursy Teyssier (Les Discrets) is responsible for the album’s beautiful, radiant artwork. While its thematic reference to the sun is easily perceptible (the bright, shining circle in the middle), one might pick up on another allusion hidden within its brushstrokes. Because of the prominent illustration of several human beings moving out of the dark towards said circular object (or opening?) it contains, this painting can, at least in my opinion, also be interpreted as a nod to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Who said that breakdowns were only acceptable in -core genres? The one found in “Eclipse” is lightyears ahead of any of the obtuse banging many bands are so fond of these days; it’s a fist-pumping, life-affirming moment of outright exhilaration, much like the rest of the song it belongs to. Probably the heaviest part of The Circle, it shows that Heretoir don’t shy away from utilizing modern metal tropes in a way that befits their artistic vision.
Where the Alpha meets the Omega is where we come full circle, always. The eleventh and final track of the album, “The Circle (Omega)”, marks the end our present musical journey. Yearning, epicurean clean vocals set the stage to the final act, ushered in by soft strings, the sound of wind and, thereupon, wistful guitars. The intensity is once more raised by the black metal elements returning to the fold, along with some distinct guitar tapping. A moving mid-section, rife with dramatic strings and clean guitars follows, before the guitars erupt once more into a furious display of atmospheric prowess. And at the end, only the strings remain, carrying a faint memory of the preceding roughly 65 minutes into the wind.
Praise The Sun!
Springtime has arrived by now, and with it, the sun has come out of hiding. And, as much of a winter person as I am (or better: was), I’ll gladly admit that I missed her presence. The Circle only amplifies this sensation; from its aesthetic to its sound, everything about the record exudes a wealth of warmth and comfort. Heretoir have really struck a nerve with me here by perfectly exemplifying this kind of seasonal Zeitgeist and the feelings it entails for me.
Both aesthetically and musically, The Circle is one of the densest records I’ve heard in quite some time. All elements present on it fit neatly into the grander scheme the album so obviously wants to establish; every note played or not played just makes sense. It’s not the technicality which makes Heretoir’s new œuvre so impressive, no; it’s their ability to stay true to one focused atmosphere and to enrich it only with what is absolutely necessary to make it flourish. This sets them apart from many bands both inside and outside their genre. To say I enjoyed The Circle would be a vast understatement, and I earnestly urge you to experience it for yourselves.
Notable Tracks: “Golden Dust”; “Eclipse”; “Laniakea Dances (Soleils Couchants)
FFO: Lantlôs, Alcest, An Autumn For Crippled Children